Panoptical Surveillance: The Risks and Rewards of Engagement Communication


This article delves into the complexities of modern media engagement and its impact on generational communication and social relations. Highlighting both the empowering and potentially detrimental effects of digital screens and multiplex media channels, it explores the role of creative industries and algorithms in shaping interactions. Through case studies, such as the controversial actions of the Icelandic band Hatari at Eurovision and the repercussions faced by young artists for their online expressions, the article underscores the nuanced relationship between media, societal norms, and individual behavior. The discussion emphasizes the importance of ethical media usage, awareness of surveillance, and the balance between effective communication and the risks of addiction and social isolation.

Risked engagements or risked communication?

Engagement via ICC can strongly help the youth to denounce something but it can also be biased and instrumentalized. In particular, with the punitive technologies that the French Michel Foucault in Surveiller and Punir (1975) does compare to the panoptic of Bentham: to suggest that one monitors continuously, gives a sense of permanent surveillance. Jeremy Bentham wanted to impose this thought in prisons, he wanted the prisoners to feel constantly being observed. The ​​Jeremy Bentham’s prison model is very present in the idea of ​​seeing everything without being seen. Commitment can be biased and orchestrated. Especially with the punitive technologies and Bentham’s repressive panoptic: to suggest that we are constantly surrounded today in our society via a lot of monitoring including social media. It institutes a sense of constant supervision.

Commitment can bring knowledge and values. It can also push the regulation of behavior including Bentham’s panoptic described by Foucault. Indeed, installing surveillance cameras can push individuals to behave properly, as you never know if someone is behind you. Already in 2014, the Chinese government installed a system of “social credit”. This system contains a notation of artificial intelligence fueled by algorithms is innovative to dissociate good and bad citizens. After several experiments, China’s social rating system is becoming clearer. In Beijing, it should be operational by 2020-2021. In Australia or India, this system is also seducing governments that can adopt it as soon as possible[20]. In the same time, an episode of the futurist TV series Black Mirror[21] –Nosedive – illustrates the negative implications of an Orwellian overreach system like the Chinese Social Credit. The title refers to ubiquitous screens that send us our reflection back. The Nosedive story shows how a digital system can affect freedom, and even freedom to think, pressured by a society that forces individuals to judge each other. Furthermore, in technology societies, the image can say much more and above all much faster than simple words. This, to “mark” where to point out something that is important to us. All of these, in addition to social media, can be very effective in demonstrating citizen involvement.

During the Eurovision contest that took place in Tel Aviv in 2019, the group Hatari, consisting of five young men (average age 25 years) represents Island with the title Hatrið mun sigra (Hate will prevail). If Hatari was noticed enough by their electronic genre, the originality of their atypical costumes and their performance on stage, it is during the announcement of the classification with the videos projected on the group, that a gesture will delight or upset the audience with irreversible way. Actually, the double surprise for the public was to know not only the rank placement of the group but also and especially to see them in this moment of the announcement, livestream, exhibiting Palestinian flags. This gesture, to show their long-standing support to Palestinian citizens. Indeed, before participating in the Eurovision contest, the members of the group had already shown their support and belief in a free Palestine, whose right to self-determination of people is still not planned. The information was relayed instantaneously on social media and subsequently, very diligently on the online media. What was less shared : the video of a security man trying to take back the Palestinian flag because of the Eurovision organization wanted to censor this legal gesture!
For Sarah N. E., luxemburguish citizen who grew up in the israelian Palestine in the 80’s, the Eurovision sequences are incredibles :  » I’ve seen that live last year, but as you know im living in Europe and most of life in the Israeli teritorry ,not sure many Palestinian are watching the Eurovision. More over we are quite used to such PR from many groups worldwide , its not new. Though in my opinion taking the flag from the participants or anyone, is outrages ! It just pissed me off . »

What has been relayed on the channel Twitter by Julien Bahloul, Head of communications at the Rothschild Foundation of Israel, is “the punishment” that the members of the group would have deserved. Indeed, the airline allegedly punished the protagonists by separating them from each other in the plane and placing them in the rows next to the toilet13. During this Eurovision 2019, Madonna also showed her commitment to Palestine, during her performance: two dancers met, one carrying a Palestine flag on the back of his costume, the other an Israeli flag. Consequences were not the same for Madonna, already known for her numerous humanitarian action[22], and for the young group, unknown from international screens. Still during the 2019 Eurovision contest, groups of militant of the French extreme right initiated an aggressive campaign on social networks to target the representative of France, Bilal Hassani, 19, after one former Twitter post. The young French affected by the massacres of the civil Palestinian population had written: “Are you stupid? The crime against humanity comes from Israel”. On risk and pain of not integrating the scene, Bilal Hassani apologized, arguing he was only 14 years old the moment he wrote this. After these apologies, the radio became silent.

Finally, to adress another example of screen capture and artist repercussions: the “Mennel case”. Mennel Ibtissem, 22 years old in 2018, candidate of the French version of the music show “The Voice” interpreted in English and Arabic the song “Hallelujah” from Leonard Cohen. Many spectators, on social media commented and greeted her performance the same evening. However, the next day, mainly French Internet users – some criticizing a scarf on her hair – explored the young woman’s digital past digging up Facebook messages she wrote in 2016 following the attack in Nice. There she shared her doubts about terrorist attacks conclusions. About another attack the same year in Normandy, she posted on FB: “the real terrorists are [the French government]”. As a consequence right-wing extremist groups from all sides, and the association of the victims of Nice, asked the channel TF1 to “give exemplary” to this polemics. This request, while the young singer has already tried to explain on FB social media that what she wrote, in a sadly schocking atmosphere was the expression of fear that she only shared at that time, with her friends on the FB network. Mennel Ibtissem finally announced her forced departure from the show. The production company, ITV Studios France, embarrassedly deplored that, despite sincere apologies from the candidate, the environment remained too heavy. In 2018, Mennel announced on another social media, Instagram that she quitted France to live with her husband in the United States. In this sense, sharing an opinion online – which is about freedom of opinion and criticism in a private sphere – can have irreversible repercussions years later in the public sphere. The newspaper L Express stated: “Anything you write can now be held against you (…) A phenomenon that has become commonplace”[23]. This is precisely the image of the candidate of The Voice, which the article illustrates. The following title of an article summarizes the situation of young mediatic actors aged between 17 and 27 years to be faced by future outcasts of media companies: “A la recherche des vieux tweets, l’archeologie numerique est devenue la norme”. With these “digital traces” and motivated investigators, it is important to raise awareness about the consequences of one’s actions.

Commitment can be dangerous and prejudicial for young artists not aware of its impact on their image. The case of the Islandic group Hatari and other international cases show that even if you risk to get punished, many causes have already been highlighted within music entertainment. In addition to collective lobbies calling for acts, demonstrations or even uprisings and acts of defamation. “Freedom of expression”, “freedom of opinion”, “freedom of criticism” … one can express oneself, a post can always be reported, therefore deleted-, but to think or to have an own opinion can lead to rise and fall, to the loss a support when the majority does not think the same thing. However, the majority is to relativize too, according to the power of accessibility of the Internet.

Screen generation’s pathos and prevention

Engaged citizens for cause seduced by the multiplicity of medial channels to share thoughts and values, can also derived to other media practices… that could become literally speaking… addictive! In 2019, the Algerian newspaper El Watan is questioning: ”Facebook, une drogue des temps modernes”? 20. The article investigates looking at 20 million Algerian profiles on the average time spent on FB. The people to whom the journalist Amel B. asked the question “How much time do you spend on FB?” seem to have had trouble answering it. Despite the positive uses that everyone can make of FB, we will find that the time devoted to it, may prove unhealthy and even detrimental. Furthermore, in less advanced countries in term of acquisition of creativity, it is hard to face the difficulties, because of the emergence of technologies “without transitions”. Citizen can pass from a Nokia 3310 to the latest Algerian smartphone Condor. If those advantages are “moderatly” used, a social media as FB can be didactic. But no limit of time leads to no consciousness of the space around. Algerian private channels replaced by Youtube emissions, “beep” that prevent sleep, rushes on the phone to check the origin of the notification, TV as a background, each and every one, smartphone in the hand… No consciousness either to measure risks as theft of identity, defamation, harassment… FB seems to be present, all day, all night long for those who go to their account while waking up, then in the bus on the way to class, in the auditorium when the course is boring. During the night, the risk is also to be wake from a notification on messenger or a comment, etc. Stress, in sum, to manage and confessions such as will resume Hakim a student interviewed: “It was a drug. I couldn’t stop alone”. So how to come off from social networks in a country where leisure is small?” asked finally the journalist.

An internet weaning seems difficult, specifically for social networks, which can quickly turn into a monster, swallowing its users. Several studies significantly correlate the increase in the number of divorces with the number of pathological hours spent on social media have an impact for the youth living through the divorce of their parents or young couples destroying their home projects.

Obviously, there is not, at present, epidemiological studies of this addiction, an addiction not considered yet as a disease by the World Health Organization. In Japan, for example, the Hikikomori[24], a youth addicted to Internet, is of great concern to the public authorities. This pathology concerns young people who do not go out of their homes, do not receive anyone and only exist through their many profiles on social media. Japan fears an epidemic. In Constantine, Algeria, a detoxification center of the Internet, the CISA (Centre intermediaire de soins en addictologie) , the first of its kind in Africa and the third in the world after South Korea and China (in the public sector)opened in 2012 to treat addictions to drugs, alcohol and tobacco.

The CISA Constantine hosts since 2013 patients aged 13 to 63 addicted to the internet, including Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. People who are aware of their addiction are entitled to a moral support therapy, with relaxation exercises to be performed when the lack is felt. For the CISA specialists, more than 38 hours of connection per week (outside of work) are synonymous with addiction. In this rehabilitation center, it is assumed that it would take six to eight months, or even a year, to fully regain control of life.

Numerous addiction pathos are discussed and many words borned to describe this. To quote two of the most famous expressions from a lexicology adapted to the time: the Canadian word “infobesite” and the acronym “FOMO” linked to the Internet addiction pathos. For Caroline Sauvajol-Rialland, lecturer at the Catholic University of Louvain, the information overload brings to isolation, cocooning, forgetting, and outbidding communicational info: when we receive more information than we can bear. On the other hand when one no longer receives any news, no information, isolation becomes immanent leading to the withdrawal into oneself like a paradoxical form of social death. FOMO – the Fear of |Missing Out – is relative to the fear of missing the latest news, the latest technologies, the latest parties, the fear of not being updated by what is going on… This fear increasing with augmented reality is the result of the constant interpenetration of the connector and the disconnect. Without forgetting migraines because of the screen, reduced visual acuity, lack of appetite… Using tools to be engaged, to inform, to be informed and to communicate quickly and efficiently is helpful for a cause. Using time to do this should be handled carefully, with a lot of precautions. And because of the various fears to be missing something or being left out when one is off-line, youngest generations should particulary be awared and prepared for these problems.


Thanks to the Internet, social media and specialized websites abound on video platforms relayed indefinitely by sharing links to multiple social media. We find many channels inviting us to reflect on our world and our society. Citizen commitment is not anymore reserved for elites, everyone can manifest itself on its scale of course with CreICT and any contribution is important. In general, the use of multiplex channels by the generations of the screen has positive effects on the commitment; however, we must be careful while cultivating this positivism. Engagement can lead to success or, on the contrary, to failure.

Indeed, geopolitical or socio-legal contexts differ internationally. Models differ according to economy, connection, legal framework and social interactions. The idea of connection and permanent closeness is not the same internationally. To zap on line, so fast from one interlocutor to another can lead to the detriment of human social relations, inherently fragile without face to face exchanges and conversations or perception of feelings. To be preserved they require effort, attention, time. Indeed, the digital screen channels changed the experience of space and time, therefore usual landmarks. It s seems that time became a luxury nowadays, as reminds us the word of the Information and Communication Sciences Pr. Alexandre Marius Dées De Sterio (1944-2006): ”Would free and freely available time have become the only, the true, the real luxury of our time?”.

Linda Saadaoui – PhD Information and Communications Sciences

Nasreddine Bouziane – PhD Information and Communication Sciences


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